An important percentage of Greece’s national income comes from tourism. Tourism funds 16% of the gross domestic products which also includes the Tourism Council and the London-Based World Travel.According to Eurostat statistics, Greece welcomed over 19.5 million tourists in 2009, which is an increase from the 17.7 million tourists it welcomed in 2007.
The vast majority of visitors in Greece in 2007 came from the European continent, numbering 12.7 million, while the most visitors from a single nationality were those from the United Kingdom, (2.6 million), followed closely by those from Germany (2.3 million). In 2010, the most visited region of Greece was that of Central Macedonia, with 18% of the country’s total tourist flow (amounting to 3.6 million tourists), followed by Attica with 2.6 million and the Peloponnese with 1.8 million. Northern Greece is the country’s most-visited geographical region, with 6.5 million tourists, while Central Greece is second with 6.3 million.
In 2010, Lonely Planet ranked Greece’s northern and second-largest city of Thessaloniki as the world’s fifth-best party town worldwide, comparable to other cities such as Dubai and Montreal. In 2011, Santorini was voted as “The World’s Best Island” in Travel + Leisure. Its neighboring island Mykonos, came in fifth in the European category.
|DEPARTURE/RETURN LOCATION||Athens International Airport|
|DEPARTURE TIME||Please arrive at least 4 hour before the flight.|
Athens has a remarkable atmosphere year round, cradled underneath the gaze of the Acropolis. Cobblestone streets wind around the Plaka, the oldest neighborhood of the city. Marble pillars continue to decorate the famous hilltop and the grounds below, from the mansions lining the ancient boulevards to the temples in the Roman quarter radiating both power and grace. When you arrive at the airport, your private transfer is waiting to greet you. Olive groves outside of the city fill the air with an herbaceous quality. The marble summit of Mount Pentelicus reflects the sunlight on your way into the old city. History and culture meet in marvelous fashion throughout Athens, from the blissful aromas of traditional confections drifting out of the bakeries to the allure of the Parthenon crowning the hilltop. You settle into your comfortable hotel situated in the heart of the city, offering a view to the continued splendor around you and the family.
The volcanic soil around the island has natural minerals that plants absorb, giving the produce around the island a richer, deeper flavor, including the wines. In a cave 20 feet below the earth’s surface, the winery has a wine museum featuring an animatronic donkey. The subterranean cavernous walls keep the air cool. A barrel of grapes is positioned inside the museum. Your guide leads the family to the barrel. The kids take off their shoes and with eager eyes, plop into the grapes, feeling the supple and juicy fruit squish between their toes. You sample the Assyrtiko to find an enticing smokiness and an earthy, lingering finish.
The wind blows through your hair leaving salt crystals in its wake. The aroma of the sea is intoxicating. The blue sweeps into the horizon. The sails capture the wind urging the boat forward. You pass the stunning display of colors from the Red Beach and the White Beach, known for the stones that border the gravelly shores. The landscape at the volcano’s rim turns rugged and lunar. Your guide leads you along the sparse, rustic gravel. The blacker the rock, the more recent the lava cooled, most notably from the 1950 eruption. The legends of the island’s genesis stem from the volcano the family explores, listening to the interconnected histories of the island, the caldera, and the summit. When you look back at Santorini, you can see the whitewashed houses and blue roofs glinting in the sunlight.
The sun rises over the horizon and spreads a staggering light across the Aegean. Your panorama at breakfast is nothing less than exquisite. After your meal, your guide meets you at the hotel and takes you to the archeological site of Akrotiri, known as the “Minoan Pompeii,” and also the possible location of Atlantis. Dating back approximately 1,600 years, the volcano underneath the island erupted, carving the current crescent shape of the landscape, but also covering the ancient city of Akrotiri in ash. The earthen aroma of the site is compelling.
The streets and houses are divided into organized grids. The kids marvel at the size and age of the city. Your guide explains the affluent nature of the thriving city and points out various frescoes decorating lavish homes. One such home has a wall painting of antelopes and blue monkeys climbing over rocks. A river runs beneath them. The vibrant hues have been preserved by the ash and archeological efforts. The landscape depicts similar volcanic rocks as to the scenery near Akrotiri. Today the family truly immerses itself in history. In the afternoon, you venture to the harbor where you meet the high-speed ferry heading to Crete.
In the morning, you have an unencumbered view of the coastline of Crete. An infinity pool looks like it touches the cobalt waters and reaches the horizon. You sip a Greek coffee at breakfast and let the day slowly begin. After your meal, your guide leads you to the marina where you board a private boat to the island of Spinalonga. The island is less than 22 acres and has been uninhabited since 1962. The Venetians constructed a fortress on the island in the 16th century, which was overtaken by the Ottomans in the 18th century.
The rugged landscape and cream-colored walls add a golden hue rising out of the Aegean Sea. You can see the entire island on a kayak tour, dipping your paddles into the water and feeling the refreshing temperature splash against your skin. The kids are eager to wade through the crystal sea. Your guide tells stories about the history of the island as you circumvent the fortress. You are learning, to your delight, that wherever you go in Greece, there is sure to be a historical story involved.
The Palace of Knossos was home to King Minos, who had Daedalus design the labyrinth. Your guide leads the family on a private tour of the grounds where the cream colored stone outlines the palace’s varying degrees of complexity dating back to 1,900 BC. The palace is complex and flamboyant, decorated with lavish frescoes and painted pillars. The atmosphere of the grounds differ from the mythologies, radiating joy, and celebrations situated in the frescoes, and the architectural plans open up to the large courtyard. The Grand Staircase leads to the Royal Chambers. Ruby Minoan columns support the upper reaches of the building. In the queen’s chambers, a fresco of dolphins decorates the wall. The elaborate blue stands out against the textures of the underwater ambiance. Although the kids haven’t found the labyrinth, the allure of the palace remains.
At lunch, your guide leads you into a cozy cafe where the owners welcome you like family. The aroma of savory cheeses and yogurt emanate from the kitchen. The chef of the restaurant becomes your guide for the moment, leading the family into the kitchen to learn how to make Greek cheese pie, otherwise known as Sfakianopita. The chef encourages the kids to have fun, get messy, use the flour and enjoy themselves because cooking is a measure of joy. When the cheese wrapped in filo dough hits the frying pan, the sizzle makes your mouth water. The kids eagerly wait. The chef takes the pie from the pan, drizzles it with honey, and the sweet and savory concoction melts in your mouth.
Your private transfer meets you in the hotel lobby helping you make your way to the Heraklion International Airport for your flight home. The mythos and antiquity of Greece continue to inspire your family, creating and shaping the unique memories you’ve made on your vacation.